I just returned from my visit to Sandia National Laboratories, where I saw some amazing new energy technologies. Much of the activity at this National Lab is classified research and development, the so-called “black world”, that cannot be seen by visitors. However, the unclassified research is truly impressive and provides a hint of the amazing developments that must be going on behind closed doors.
The most impressive facility I visited was the MESA Center. MESA stands for “Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications”. According to Sandia, this center is a “computationally-intensive environment for the design, integration, prototype fabrication, and qualification of integrated microsystems into weapon components, subsystems, and systems for the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile”. In other words, MESA engineers apply CMOS processes pioneered by the electronics industry to making sensors and components that enhance the functionality of nuclear weapons. One aspect of this work is energy scavenging to provide power to these microsystems; see my post, The Walls are Crawling with Energy, for more details.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.